Petitioner opposed to Suffolk road plan

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 3, 2004

A retired Virginia Department of Transportation official is circulating petitions opposing the city’s proposal to assume maintenance of 1,480 miles of roads now maintained by the state agency.

Richard Coates, a 37-year VDOT veteran who retired as resident engineer more than a decade ago, calls the proposal &uot;mind-blowing.&uot;

Although both VDOT and city officials support the proposal, he remains convinced the venture would be too much for the city to handle.


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&uot;I don’t think the city really understands what it is going to have to maintain,&uot; said Coates, who began collecting signatures late Wednesday.

&uot;There are 143 bridges and enough mileage to build a two-lane road stretching from here to California,&uot; he continued. &uot;Concrete and asphalt don’t last forever…and the older a road gets, the more its maintenance will cost.

&uot;Every state in the union…and every municipality in Virginia that handles its own roads is crying the blues that maintenance is eating them up,&uot; he said. &uot;Does it make sense for Suffolk to be doing the same thing?&uot;

VDOT has maintained the roadways since 1974, when Suffolk and Nansemond County merged. The city has been studying the takeover of the state-maintained roads for several years, because it would receive more than double the current funding level for highway maintenance.

Coates acknowledged that the city would receive significantly more money annually for roadwork than VDOT does for the same projects.

But at the same time, the city is not factoring in expenses, such as bridge and drainage engineers and electricians, that the VDOT’s Suffolk residency receives from the Suffolk-based VDOT district employees.

At the very least, Coates wants the city to slow down in making its decision.

&uot;This is the biggest issue that the city of Suffolk has ever faced,&uot; he said. &uot;Taking over these roads will be forever.

&uot;This city administration needs to remember that their children and great-grandchildren will have to maintain these highways too.&uot;

So far, Coates has only placed petitions in a couple of Chuckatuck businesses. He plans on placing them in other businesses throughout the city over the weekend.

&uot;I will put them anywhere anyone is interested,&uot; he said. &uot;I’ve got a few people helping me now and would love to have more help.&uot;

Anyone interested in helping with the petition drive can contact Coates at 539-5623.